The longest running slapstick comedy act that North Main Street traffic congestion has become in Manteca got renewed for another season Tuesday.
The Manteca City Council, channeling its inner Abbott & Costello courtesy the producers at 1001 West Center Street, came up with what appears to be on the surface a sensible solution to the never-ending 30-year plus debate whether Main Street is a major city arterial or a moving parking lot aimed at encouraging sidewalk cappuccino sipping.
They decided to synchronize the traffic signals!
What? A previous decided to do that already but citywide to all traffic signals with a possible work-in with Caltrans freeway signals thanks to a nearly $2 million federal grant staff — more correctly fired staff — secured five years ago, right? And didn’t every council since then approve a capital improvement plan each year that had the project clearly and prominently listed?
Perhaps it didn’t get done because those actions were all actual roll call votes as opposed to “council consensuses” one reaches on one of the most critical roadways in Manteca without actually alerting the public on an agenda you are going to make a decision, err consensus, that will impact their lives.
Any bets on whether the traffic signals in Manteca, or even just the ones at Alameda, North, Center, Yosemite, Moffat, and perhaps Wetmore will be done by June 2022?
Before you place your bets, a council voted in April 2016 to tear out the remaining much disliked bulb outs in the 100 block of North Main Street and they are still there. Of course, that was an actual decision made by a vote of elected officials and not a consensus.
Apparently there is a fine legal point for city staff. Do formal decisions made at a public meeting carry no legal weight for city staff compliance? Or perhaps that is only when staff agrees with directives of elected officials.
At any rate we are now going to do what definitely seems like the obvious. The question is why did the city staff have to cut a check for “fresh eyes” in the form of a traffic consultant not connected with the Chick-Fil-A debacle or milking the North Main Street corridor for all its worth to do traffic studies over the years to tell them what city councils on an annual basis told them to do already for five years running?
No disrespect to the traffic consultant who clearly is a half a dozen notches better than Fehr & Peers. This guy even presented photographic evidence that it doesn’t matter what the city does to streets as they don’t even enforce basic rules such as ticketing trucks that go off truck routes when they aren’t making a delivery.
Perhaps if the engineering department spent a little more time tackling backed up road projects such as the aging one involving citywide traffic synchronization instead of blazing new trails to make North Main Street walkable, everyone on Tuesday wouldn’t have acted as if the traffic consultant just invented white bread when he suggested synchronizing signals.
Of course, we were promised by the current council that creating new departments and purging top city management so that no one driving the bureaucratic clown truck has even a year’s experience in Manteca in their respective positions would bring a new era to the city.
Perhaps that era is “The Age of Recycling Solutions That Were Never Implemented”.
In the spirit of cutting greenhorns some slack when it specifically comes to Manteca nuances that impact planning, traffic, and downtown development textbooks they can’t pry their fingers off of, let’s assume they do at least manage to synchronize five or so traffic signals in Manteca within a year.
The traffic consultant is right in that it will improve flow but whether it is to the degree he anticipates is a wide open question.
That’s because of the “queues” — or left turn pockets — in the 100 block of North Main.
Granted congestion is not the pits at 2 a.m. on North Main, but during a large chunk of the day when the people who live here move about there are significant issues.
They are the ones that notice no more than three cars can squeeze into the queue to turn left onto westbound Center and four — sometimes five vehicles if you get a Mini-Cooper in line — can fit in the turn pocket to turn left into eastbound Yosemite.
You can synchronize signals all you want but if you can’t get around cars backed up to make a left turn when the light is green, what good is it?
The idea that someone coming from south of the Union Pacific’s heavily used main train tracks — that the railroad has warned to expect the number of trains to more than double in the coming years — will go four to 30 blocks out of the way to reach a destination like the post office is a bit comical. They don’t do it now.
So why would they take between a three block to two mile roundabout way depending on whether they live north or south of the tracks to handle what the downtown guru noted was “daily business” such as stopping by a bank as opposed to hunting for the perfect latte to enjoy in 100-degree heat or a bone-chilling Tule fog day at a sidewalk cafe because the lights are in synch but turn pockets can’t handle more cars?
Perhaps we will solve that in phase two of the comic classic “Abbott & Costello Do Traffic Congestion Management on North Main Street.”
From what was being said Tuesday that means ripping out the median islands and putting in right turn only signs at driveways and the alley and maybe even plastic bollards on the center lane.
Then we can resort to an old rerun where people in frustration — while ignoring no left turn signs — would pull across the northbound lane blocking it to try and get into the southbound lane. This also led to more than a few fender benders that definitely boosted downtown economic activity for tow truck companies.
As for bollards, they lasted less than 30 hours before. Perhaps this time around they’ll make it a full two days.
This is course will require a “third phase” and so on.
Thank goodness the city’s top bureaucrats and elected leaders with such mindsets aren’t cancer doctors taking a phased approach to going after a tumor when there is a holistic approach that will address the issue in one fell swoop.
Perhaps the most telling moment Tuesday was when the traffic consultant became one of the few people that actually read the city’s general plan. He correctly noted the level of service — read that traffic congestion — that exists downtown meets the low bar that previous councils set and the current one is poised to embrace when they adopt the latest update of the planning document sometime in the coming months.
Previous councils did so due to the perplexing issues the central district poses. But at the same time they did so on the assumption that plays into the hands of downtown first, major arterial expectations second crowd.
They could easily set a higher service standard for Main Street through downtown but not on all cross streets.
Even Mayor Ben Cantu stated the obvious when he said “five minutes on Yosemite and Main feels like an hour.”
At least it wasn’t as laughable as the downtown consultant trying to paint “through traffic” as people trying to take a shortcut by getting off Highway 99 at Lathrop Road and traveling Main Street to get onto the 120 Bypass.
“Through traffic” on Main is simply Manteca residents trying to reach places such as Walmart or Target without going two miles out of their way.
And just so Abbott & Costello know, another 140 homes are breaking ground on North Main where most of the future residents are likely to head to Walmart and Target as opposed to the shuttered Kmart just a block away.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at email@example.com